Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Semester's End & Photography Techniques

The end of my final semester at college brings with it A TON of work to do. Not just for my classes, but also for graduation and my next job. I've had the opportunity to get outside and see many of the spring wildflowers I missed last year and I'm itching to write about those and share pictures from those trips. That will probably happen in a week or two, however.

For now, one of my assignments for my Scientific Imaging class is to take a look back through the semester and examine how I have progressed in my photography. In addition, I need to look back at my influences and what kind of photography I'm drawn to, which is pretty neat. I've pretty much just been barreling through the portfolio assignments for the class without much chance for reflection about my photos, so it's a fun assignment. It also gives me a chance to show how much I have improved--and my progress on that front hasn't been too shabby. In particular, I've learned how to use the rule of thirds much more effectively, giving my photos a more artistic bend than what I was getting before.

Before I took the class, I would simply center my subject in the frame and snap the picture, without much thought as to how I could improve its placement. I also wouldn't worry about the color levels, giving my photos something of a washed out look. I've improved a bit now, and can get my blacks black and my whites white, rather than the drab gray the camera usually wants to make them. I don't want this post to drag on for too long since I still have to actually do the assignment, so I'll end it here with a comparison of two images: one from before taking the class and one I took during the class.

This wolf spider is simply framed in the middle of the shot, without any attention to the rule of thirds, and nothing done to the color of the image. The brown color of the spider "pops" more in real life, but is more gray here. I still use centering sometimes, when I just need to make sure I have identifying features of my subjects--for scientific purposes, which is fine and necessary at times. However, I never really thought about how to make my photos more artistic or pleasant, which is how I view things now.

This photo of a garter snake was taken a few weeks ago, and I had the rule of thirds in mind here. I've messed with the color a bit, and it's probably a bit oversaturated, but I liked how the tongue contrasts with the gray of the snake tin.

Now my goal will be to ensure I don't forget all the useful techniques I have learned in the class. Actually, I should probably start on that final presentation now.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Science Video Friday - MYTH BUSTED!

If there's one television show that has done the most to popularize science in the last decade, it's MythBusters. The show has been on the Discovery Channel since 2003 and is successful not only for the interesting myths that are tested on the show, but also because of how fun it is to watch the hosts testing the myths.

It also doesn't hurt that the testing usually involves blowing something up.

The MythBusters' pursuit of scientific literacy and critical thinking doesn't stop after the television episodes are done filming: they go out and speak to the public at a variety of events. Luckily for us, there is often video for all of us to enjoy.

In November 2011, Adam Savage gave a TED talk about how simple ideas spark scientific discoveries and uses some examples to drive the point home. Did you know that a man named Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the 200 BC? Watch the video below to learn how he did it, and how close he was to the actual value. Spoiler alert: it was pretty darn close.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No fish here!

If you need a lab science during college, you shouldn't pass up the biology labs. Why? Because you get to go on fun field trips and find all sorts of neat stuff.

Trout lily - Erythronium sp.

This trout lily turned up today during a field trip looking for spring wildflowers. I had only seen pictures of trout lily before today, and it makes such a better impact in person. It may be one of my favorite flowers now.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring's Tiger Beetle

I've identified the tiger beetle I wrote about last Tuesday as the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. It's a beautiful and common tiger beetle, and is usually connected with wooded areas.

I found this one during a field trip for my Lower Plants class (yes yes, it's not a technically correct term, but it's a much easier name for the course than some alternatives), where it was hanging out around a dead log with a few other tiger beetles. I haven't found many tiger beetles before, so I was very excited. I didn't have an insect net with me, nor would it have helped me much, so I crouched down and slowly crept forward.

I got as close as I could without scaring it away, and pounced like a cat, cupping it in my hands. Surprisingly, I caught it on my first try. I tried to find it in my fist full of leaves and didn't want to hold it too tightly, in fear of squishing it. I wasn't worried that it had escaped my grasp since I kept feeling it bite me.

They're not called tiger beetles because they're furry. (Even though they are kind of furry.)

Its bite doesn't hurt as much as I was expecting. But don't try telling that to the insects this beetle eats.

 If you haven't noticed by now, this beetle has amazing coloration. It ranges from metallic-green to metallic-blue, colors that you probably don't associate with the insects of Ohio. It's a real gem to see, and despite its bright color, it's surprisingly easy to miss in the field unless you pay attention.

 The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle is active during the Spring, and less so during the summer, so if you want to find it, head out to some woods near you soon!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Science Video Friday - E.O. Wilson's Social Conquest

One of my personal heroes is E.O. Wilson, for a variety of reasons. He has done some amazing work for concepts of biodiversity, and entomologists revere him for both his research about ants and his ability to communicate with the general public. In fact, he has won two Pulitzer prizes for his books (among many other awards), so he's kind of a big deal.

Charlie Rose recently did an interview with him on April 3rd about his book The Social Conquest of Earth, and it's fascinating. To watch the video, just follow this link.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Tiger Beetles are out!

I gave my final capstone presentation today and wow did that feel great! I'll have my degree soon--as long as the poster presentation goes well next week.

Until then, here's a picture of a tiger beetle I found today (identification to come later). I was able to catch it, so the collection will have a pretty specimen now.